Posted July 1997
|Special: Empowering the rural disabled in Asia and the Pacific|
Disabled people in rural areas of Vietnam 
Dr Ho Nhu Hai
Ministry of Labour Invalid and Social Welfare (MOLISA)
Vietnam is officially committed to fully participate in the Programme of Action for the Decade of the Disabled in the Asian Pacific in the period 1993 - 2000. Vietnam is making a great effort to support the full participation and equality of people with disabilities to take part in various activities especially in rehabilitation, education, employment and job training. These activities aim at supporting the Disabled to gradually integrate into their communities.
During the period 1994-1995, Vietnam conducted the sample survey on the Disabled all over the country. This survey was implemented to help in designing and issuing a new law called the "Ordinance on The Disabled".
In 1996, the Ministry of Labour, Invalid and Social Affairs (MOLISA) made the first draft of this law. It is now being adjusted and amended and the Ordinance will be issued in 1997. It will provide a legal base for protecting the Disabled in Vietnam. It encourages the community, the families and the Disabled themselves to increase their awareness of Disability issues. The ordinance strengthens policies aimed at facilitating and promoting people with disabilities to use their equality in politics, socio-economics, also culture and use their potential to stabilize their own lives and to integrate into society.
The results of the above mentioned survey showed that about 1.3 million people, who are heavily handicapped or relatively handicapped need the assistance of either the State or the social community. The rate of the disabilities within this sector of the population are as follows:
|Other kinds of disabilities||8.67|
It is obvious that the Motor Disabled ranks first among the various kind of disabilities. The survey also revealed that the number of the Disabled living in the rural areas accounted for 87.27 % of the total Disabled. It is therefore clear and necessary to have policies which assist the Disabled, in general, and the Motor Disables living in particular in rural areas.
Like the majority of the Disabled in the rural areas, the Motor Disabled are a disadvantaged (vulnerable) group in society. The first and the most important disadvantage is that the opportunities for them to have jobs to generate income are small. It is reflected in the following factors:
The rate of under-employment in rural areas is high. Leisure time amounts to over 30 % of people's time. The Motor Disabled in the rural areas who still have the ability to work can just manage to do some light housework, and they earn no income. The 1995 survey showed that 41.86 % of the Disabled in the Red River (Hong) delta had the need to work but they had no jobs. 95.85 % of the Disabled are living with their families and one of every 8 families has a disabled member. It can be said that feeding and raising the Disabled, who as members of the families, are a great burden for the Vietnamese families nowadays.
Moreover, in the rural areas of Vietnam, the main production constraint affecting family incomes is the small area of the cultivated land which they were provided through land use rights. The land law of Vietnam states that land allocation for each household depends on the numbers of labourers and the number of people in each family. It also regulates the use of a certain rate (approximately 5 %) of the total cultivated land for land letting with higher taxes. With these limitations, the families with Disabled members have not enough ability nor condition to participate in the letting. On the other hand, the ability of the majority of Motor Disabled to do work is limited; therefore, their land allocation portion divided per head is usually smaller than the land allocation portion divided per labourer.
Therefore, the Motor Disabled and their families fall into the disadvantaged situation of not having opportunities to use the cultivated land in the rural areas.
The cultivation of rice and other cereals - the main activities in the rural areas - demands physical labour because it has not been mechanized. This form of occupation is not suitable for the Motor Disabled.
The Motor Disabled in the rural areas also have less opportunities to enjoy welfare in education, health and culture in their communities. This can be understood by some of the following parameters:
From the beginning of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the government has promulgated social policies to protect and assist the Disabled. The Motor Disabled are considered to be members of the agricultural co-operatives in the rural areas. Every cooperative member including disabled members receive a minimum food stuff (rice) ration no matter if they took part in the producing activities for the cooperatives, plus the more the person worked, the more his portion of food stuff would be. In this period, from 1966 up to the late of 1980s, the minimum basic needs of the Disabled were guaranteed as the same for other members in the community.
In the renovation process of Vietnam, with the development of the commodity economy within various economic sectors and with the introduction of market-oriented mechanisms, the agricultural co-operatives in rural areas no longer exist. The main and basic producing unit is now the household. Mainly, the Disabled in the rural areas are assisted by their families and by the village or commune communities. The Government has policies that protect a small number of the Disabled in two ways:
Socializing the protection of the Disabled is in harmony with Vietnamese conditions and its underdeveloped economy. It facilitates and promotes the tradition of helping each other in the families , in the villages and communes in the rural areas of Vietnam. With this formula, a huge amount of resources has been mobilized to assist and facilitate the Motor Disabled to integrate themselves into their communities and to reduce their inferiority complex due to their physical disabilities.
In implementing the policies to protect the Disabled, the Vietnamese Government always highly appreciate and appeals for international cooperation. Assistance funds from international organizations, donor governments and non-governmental organizations are effectively used to rehabilitate the health and welfare of and to carry out the prosthesis with and provide training for the Disabled.
Hunger eradication and poverty alleviation are top priorities of the Vietnamese Government and policies aim at encouraging the economic growth and implementation of equality in society in rural areas. Since 1993-1994, hunger eradication and poverty alleviation programmes have stated in all provinces and major cities. These programmes assist poor families and poor communes by:
Since 1993, the properties of poor families in the total population has been reduced by 2% annually. Our goal is that by the year 2000, only 10% of all families will be poor (in line with the present poverty line).
As mentioned above, on one hand the land portion allocated for the families is limited, on the other hand, it is difficult for the Motor Disabled to do heavy work. Developing family business or small enterprise activities in rural areas can facilitate the Motor Disabled and their families to take part in production and business activities which are suitable within their health and their abilities. The measures to implement the hunger eradication and poverty alleviation progamme aim at changing the structure in planting crop and tree crops, in changing the kind of animals, developing the variety of non-agricultural occupations such as: small and simple industry, processing the agricultural products, services of fertilizer and pesticide, consumer goods, creating and increasing income for people, including the Motor Disabled.
These measures step by step change the occupational structure and diversify the resources. With these measures, the rural areas are not only the place to produce goods but also become the consuming market with an industrialized and modernized orientation. Developing the rural areas will create a stable and good environment to support the community, the families and the Motor Disabled themselves to achieve a better life.
With the introduction of renovation policies and the development of the market economy, some people have become better-off and others have become less disadvantaged. This latter group still has certain disadvantages in lacking opportunities to compete, they have to face with many difficulties in their lives. The Motor Disabled are included in this group.
The objectives of the renovation process are to have: well-off people, strong country, equal and civilized society. Vietnamese Government stipulates social policies along with policies for economic development, together with market mechanisms to either directly or indirectly assist the poor families to overcome their poverty and gradually enrich themselves. The social policies in Vietnam aim at bridging the gap between wealth and poverty, between people in the urban and the rural areas, between the mountainous areas and the deltas. It creates equality of opportunities to use one's rights in political, economic, cultural and social aspects. Vietnamese Government has issued specific policies on preferential credit, free of charge primary education, community health, and free medical treatment and examination for the Disabled and the poor. It appeals for the commune's assistance in transferring the technology and experiences for the poor, assisting in training and creating jobs for the Disabled.
The ordinance on the Disabled will be issued in 1997. It will provide a stronger legal base than present policies for the Disabled in Vietnam and it will demonstrate Vietnam's commitment to the Full Participation and Equality of people with disabilities in the Asia and Pacific region.
The families, the relatives, the villages and the communes of the Motor Disabled in rural area of Vietnam will be the main beneficiaries of these efforts. With international and regional cooperation, the Motor Disabled in Vietnam will be able to have more advantages in integrating to national community and exchange experience with organization of the Disabled of other countries in the region.
MOLISA, which is the State Management Office for the Disabled in Vietnam will strive to cooperate with other State offices, mass organizations, national social organizations, international organizations, foreign governmental and non-governmental organizations in protecting the right of the Disabled in general and the Motor Disabled in particular.